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Surgical cordotomy helps psychosocial suffering
  1. Amane Abdul-Razzak1,
  2. Alison Murray1 and
  3. Stephan Duplessis2
  1. 1 Division of Palliative Medicine, Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amane Abdul-Razzak, Division of Palliative Medicine, Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 2T9, Canada; amane.abdul-razzak{at}


A young woman was admitted to our palliative care unit with severe pain to her right hip and leg. Her pain was uncontrolled despite aggressive use of opioids, adjuvant pain medications and spinal analgesia. She experienced significant psychological and social distress, but engaging in therapies with our multidisciplinary team proved difficult. Surgical cordotomy was pursued, which improved the physical pain and allowed her to re-engage in social and familial roles and meaningful activities. This case gives context to discuss the complex interactions between physical pain and psychosocial suffering. It is challenging to determine the relative contributions of physical, psychological, existential and social suffering, and this case highlights the complex relationships between these domains. In this case, managing the physical pain by means of a surgical cordotomy allowed the patient the opportunity to address other domains of suffering.

  • cordotomy
  • total pain
  • psychological care
  • pain

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  • Contributors Background research was conducted by AA-R and AM. The article was written by AA-R with input and modifications by AM and SD. All the authors agree to be accountable for ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the presented work. All the authors listed have contributed sufficiently to the project to be included as authors, and all those who are qualified to be authors are listed in the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.